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Like Deliverance, if it took place at a defunct artist colony in Maine Creepiness abounds, and even the protagonist in this novel made me a little uneasy possibly because one wrong turn in life, and that could have been me I kept having the urge to put this down, but I really wanted to see what it all was going to amount to, and I have to say, but about page 200 it doesn t disappoint Dark and a bit unnerving, but worth reading Just not, perhaps, lighthearted beach reading. Finally Eureka A strong female lead, a middle aged single woman whose existenz isn t defined with the platitudes of a man hunt OK, so she s a junkie and an alcoholic her main love in life is Jack Daniels and Corona Actually, that IS her life, now questing from hit to hit, focused on the singularity of a microscopic raison d etre in order to avert, no subvert, a kaleidoscope of opportunity costs, each one destined to crystallise an actuality of failed possibility.Cass Neary is strummed of despair, unpotentialised, raw a woman obsessed with death, a mind negotiating subreality as a genre, an artiste photographer who dagguerotypes instead of digitalises 220 120 on the 1970s NYC Lower pulse so, a supernova in the making.This woman rocks.Actually, I ve seen this early woman before, this woman who vaguely sonorifies her autobiography Chris Kraus and Jane de Lynn might have been her drinking buddies in CBGS But the latter two , well, when the music stops and the chairs are taken, what do they do The first starts obsessing over a man The second, over a woman But Cass Neary Jack Daniels and a phot shoot Please Hell, yeah.NEways Off to Maine she goes, to interview a reclusive octogenarian photographer Shit happens I want to focus on the man here Although Cass is equal opportunities when it comes to the whole birds and bees things any representative of the homo sapiens race will do.But the man There IS a man, but nothing happens My point being that this is what we have come to in modern literature to signify existential love, it is pre requisite to NOT fuck Screwing is only allowed when you re not invested Any real feelings have to be recontextualised through abstinence Sad, but not surprising In a zeitgeist where something for the weekend, sir has morphed into a daily ritual of hows your father , how does one express emoticons Through self denial, of course See the sense Oh, Cass.I m still on a high from this book 24 hours after finishing, and I still can t start a new book. Cass Neary Made Her Name In The S As A Photographer Embedded In The Burgeoning Punk Movement In New York City Her Pictures Of The Musicians And Hangers On, The Infamous, The Damned, And The Dead, Got Her Into Art Galleries And A Book Deal But Thirty Years Later She Is Adrift, On Her Way Down, And Almost Out Then An Old Acquaintance Sends Her On A Mercy Gig To Interview A Famously Reclusive Photographer Who Lives On An Island In Maine When She Arrives Downeast, Cass Stumbles Across A Decades Old Mystery That Is Still Claiming Victims, And Into One Final Shot At RedemptionElizabeth Hand Grew Up In New York State InShe Moved To Washington, DC, To Study Playwriting At Catholic University After Seeing Patti Smith Perform, Hand Flunked Out And Became Involved In The DC And New York City Nascent Punk Scenes FromToShe Worked At The Smithsonian National Air And Space Museum She Returned To University To Study Cultural Anthropology, And Received Her BA InThe Author Of Seven Previous Novels And The Recipient Of A Maine Arts Commission And An NEA Fellowship, She Is A Regular Contributor To The Washington Post Book World Hand Lives With Her Family On The Maine Coast An aging punk rock photographer travels to Maine, aka Vacationland, to visit a brilliant reclusive artist who hasn t spoken in decades and discovers a world of weirdness and horror The meditation on seeing, and how the observer changes what is seen, is brilliant, and so is the the extended metaphor for photography as a way of turning light and time into images Cass Neary is a brilliantly unpredictable fuckup, great protagonist. I first started reading Elizabeth Hand s books in the mid 90 s I ve always had a hard time exactly describing my response to her books Her early works the books I read in the mid 90 s were EXTREMELY dark post apocalyptic science fiction Beautifully written I used to say that if other books were like cotton, her books were velvet Maybe a better comparison is water and blood Generation Loss is different It sor less a mystery, set in modern day, and not science fiction I suspect, from the little I know about Elizabeth Hand, that it s semi autobiographical, or, probablyprecisely, that the main character is based a little bit on Elizabeth herself The book is really about the dark side of art, how some artists see beauty in the grotesque, whether they want to or not Elizabeth hand is a writer and Cass, the main character, is a photographer, but I suspect that the obsession and compulsion to capture the macabre is quite similar.I probably would have enjoyed the book evenif I knew anything about the world of photography, but just knowing what I know about art was enough. Generation Loss is impossible to put down, in the same way that it s impossible to refrain from poking a beached dead seal with a stick repellent but compelling Hand combines a bunch of unlikely elements an aging meth head, a famous photographer, a serial killer, an artists commune, a sullen teenager, and the lonely, tangled wilds of the Maine coast into a lean and perfect tale about endurance and redemption A beautiful and unsettling book. I don t know how to feel about this book I don t feel objective, which is funny given how much Generation Loss is about the intersection of art and consumer As a love letter for Maine isolated weirdness that people from Away don t get to see, it s amazing Content warning I talk about rape behind the cut view spoiler As a commentary on cults of personality destroying themselves and others, it s unparalleled As a reflection of how small towns affect the younger generation, it s insightful The language is gorgeous.But, oh, the protagonist I commented as I read this that, if I was ever trapped in a Saw esque death trap cellar with Cass and Stephen King s killer clown Pennywise, I d go sit by Pennywise first Cass is horrifying to me, mostly because she s the kind of character that I should adore Also, I spent most of the book assuming that the refrain of shame about I didn t fight back against my rapist wasof Cass being self destructive and self loathing with a dash of the author commenting on society s victim blaming response to assault survivors By the end of the book, though, I think Cass fighting the murderer off reflecting that this time she fought back was an attempt by Hand to show that Cass was shrugging off her self destructive chains and deciding to live I call bullshit In the case of rape, not every survivor fights It isn t self destructiveness or a disinterest in surviving or evidence of deep nihilist damage Rape isn t a freaking character building exercise I m not objective here, but I can t tell if the moral of always fight back is the protagonist or the text talking It smacks of cultural myths about what kinds of rape are real, what kind of survivors are good and deserving, and that s a sore spot for the book to prod Anyway I m not giving a star rating to this book for that reason I understand that the protagonist is based on Hand herself, and I don t know how much of that includes surviving an assault Hand s response to what she s survived is her own business, but the thin gray line between what author and character believe about all other survivors and the right way to survive bothered me Survive no longer looks like a word I ll move on hide spoiler I would ve been muchinto Generation Loss if Hand didn t take 200 pages to get the plot going somewhere and didn t meander in the meantime on overlong explanations about the wonders of photography or photographic artists and the continuing drug abuse of Cass Neary, the main character It just got a bit old, and I didn t really get into what some reviewers seem to consider the beauty of the book or of the Maine coast To me it just sounded grim and lifeless, and while there isn t anything wrong with that, I just wasn t woo d by what the writer was trying to sell me often through the narrator s voice Maybe you need to have been there Or not ever have been in a desolate place say, the Finnish countryside so that it soundsmagical.The last 50 pages or so the 100 pages in between were, well, something in between were pretty good, although the discovery that lead to the reveal was super obvious Cass s amazement felt like a joke The climax was also a little too much like an action movie for my taste Nevertheless, the ending saved the book for me a bit I don t read all that much crime murder mystery literature, but I do like the suspense and storytelling of the genre when it s mixed with good drama Gone Girl comes to mind With this one, the suspense wasn t really there until page 250 or so Maybe there was an ominous mood, but since the prose wasn t really that captivating it just felt pointless until the story actually got somewhere.In a way I liked the main character because she was so fucked up and clearly not any kind of hero, but not your regular Clint Eastwood anti hero either The way that Cass keeps on making mistakes and doing stupid shit was different and sometimes funny, making some events feel almost like a black comedy One rather huge problem that I had with the main character was that it was impossible to buy that she was 45, I kept imagining at most a 32 year old woman, but that may have been because of my own preconceived notions the Lisbeth Salander comparisons, while inaccurate, don t help It also felt like her narration was often too wordy and stable prose wise for someone who s spent the last 25 years basically wasted and drugged.I might be interested in the sequel, but almost every aspect of the writing would have to be stronger The characters are good, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Had I read Elizabeth Hand s work before, I might have been very surprised at this book When I met Elizabeth this past summer and expressed my praise for such a wonderful book, she expressed some doubt if I would like her other work as it wasstandard fantasy It was only later in a seminar about the experience of writing the book that I got a deeper glimpse into her reasoning She hated writing this book.I can see why Generation Loss is as disturbingly beautiful as the photography the protagonist describes think Robert Mapplethorpe meets Man Ray and unabashedly self effacing It is quite obvious that the protagonist is based on the author herself although, thankfully, not all of the events described therein This kind of self effacement can easily turn tedious, but Elizabeth never lets it sink into mere self indulgent confession Her shared experiences with her protagonist are merely a springboard for a great story with characters one finds compellingly human, in both positive and negative ways Warts and all as they say.Make no mistake, though, this is not standard fare fantasy, nor urban fantasy Like all wonderful books it is hard to pin down, but I found it an intense psychological thriller with just on the edge of surrealism twists very reminiscent of Night Gallery or The Twilight Zone at their very best, with some hard edged cynicism to keep it all from straying from frighteningly believable.I still haven t read any of her other works Ms Hand said in her talk that she wanted so many times to reach for her standard fantasy tropes to move the story along, but resisted As a result we are given a rarity that wonderful thing that comes from an artist willing to stretch herself beyond her comfort zone and stay there until the job is done. I get all the Elizabeths with the four letter last names confused, and I thought I had tried Elizabeth Hand already Nope It was probably Elizabeth Bear but there is also an Elizabeth Moon When Jeff VanderMeer gave a glowing review to the most recent Cass Neary book, I felt I missed something and got the first book in the series immediately Fantastic Darker and grittier than I expected, loved Cass, loved the hint at potential supernatural elements that may just be the side effect of a drug addled mind or maybe not , love the setting of bleakest remotest island Maine in the winter, love the art elements I got up early and went late to work so that I could finish it I haven t needed to read a book straight through like that for a long time Only sleep got in the way.This book was discussed on Episode 062 of the Reading Envy Podcast.